People | Start with the Intended Audience

The goal is always to create experiences and destinations that connect with the community. To do this well, we need to stay in touch with what a cultural anthropologist might call “the inventory of the lifestyle.” This is simply thinking through the things that matter to the folks we want to reach. This mindset is at the root of what we know to be the ultimate goal, generating real emotional connections with people through our work. This is at the heart of any work that instills loyalty and the desire to see what comes next in an experience, which is what an environment becomes when it’s successful.

To do this effectively, we need to combine insights from a digital and human-scale analysis to arrive at insights that unlock the full potential of every environment. We need to walk the neighborhood, find out about cultural events and activities that resonate with the locale, and have conversations with the end users to learn what’s important to them and how they live now.

These insights fuel the strategy integrated into every aspect of the design process to ensure successful outcomes that become memorable experiences. They are lessons that can also help us think through how we support and plan for the way the spaces we create will evolve.

Design is dialogue, and it’s essential to know whom you’re engaging in the conversation and what they care about.


Photography: Creative Noodle


Culture | Always Listening to Change

Human nature is the one constant through human history, it is always there.
– Thucydides, the originator of the scientific study of history

In a time of seemingly constant change, how can we plan for the future effectively? Focus on human connection. Human nature is the terra firma in a world that sometimes feels like quicksand. The luxurious living that ancient Romans desired is essentially the same today. Examples from all cultures can easily be imagined along the same lines.

We are creatures of imagination, and once basic needs have been met, we quickly move toward what entertains and delights us. In many ways, as design professionals, is that not where we live? We serve in the realm of addressing and engaging the aspirational goals of a specific demographic.

In this way, by bringing an eye toward adaptability for everything from master plans to retail footprints, from touchpoints to key elements of the program, we can support the needs of a place to evolve with cultural trends, knowing that the basics of what people need will stay the same. This thinking sets the stage for us to consider new ways of envisioning the creation of noteworthy destinations with soul! That may sound a bit lofty, but it’s really the goal at the heart of this profession.


Photography: Photography (Left): Studio Maha | Photography (Right): John Bare


Place | Cultivating Soul

Gathering with our community has become ever more important as we increasingly live our lives in front of screens. Finding places to see people, using our five senses and sharing a meal and an experience are vital to our well-being.

Retail is an essential amenity for destinations. Restaurants, cafes, breweries, farmers markets and, of course, ice cream, now typically represent 80 percent of the mix needed to attract visitors, but other concepts are also important in establishing a complete lifestyle experience.

Cultivating soul, making destinations worth the journey, and encouraging repeat visits, are what we love to do as design professionals. The best use of fixed assets versus space that can be programmed for a wide range of uses will be explored as we think through the possibilities together.

The goal of listening is clear, actionable and inviting results in the built environment. Arriving at an emotional connection with
guests is a powerful tool in crafting memorable destinations that gain loyalty.



Conclusion | An Ongoing Conversation

Bill Cunningham observed people on the street, who loved fashion as much as he did, and documented1 what he saw. It’s a great example of listening well to an audience that you might enjoy!

Bill Cunningham’s photography captured the evolution of style, trends, and the every day, both in New York City and Paris. But his work also shows that street style is not only about fashion; it’s about the people and the changing culture.